“He hit a rocket,” Manager Joe Torre said. “He just hit a bullet.”
…Jason Giambi, who was on base, reminded Matsui of his experience last spring. Giambi homered twice in his exhibition debut, then hit no more the rest of camp. “Don’t let that be the last one,” Giambi told him.
What impressed Giambi most was not the home run but the at-bat that led up to it. Matsui, who walked 114 times while batting .334 last season, saw eight pitches.
“That’s part of his game a lot of people don’t realize,” Giambi said. “He’s a great hitter, not just a great home-run hitter.”
Contreras was in the dugout for the homer and admired what he saw. “It was a perfect swing,” he said.
Of his own performance, Contreras was not as kind. He retired the last five hitters he faced, three with strikeouts. But Contreras was quite disappointed with his first inning, when he needed four mound conferences with catcher Jorge Posada. Contreras and Posada had trouble with the signals. Contreras’s splitter was everywhere, his slider was flat. The pounding he took had no precedent.
“That never happened to me in my 10 years of pitching – five runs in one inning and a grand slam,” Contreras said through an interpreter. “I know it’s just baseball, but I have to prepare better. It was my first game here and I wanted to leave a good impression, and I didn’t. I know a lot of people were anxious to see me perform, but I wasn’t able to give them the results they wanted.”
When Contreras gets in trouble, he tends to work more deliberately. Stottlemyre noticed and tried to let him pick up the pace on his own. He finally went to the mound after the homer. “It gives me something to look for the next time,” Stottlemyre said. “Next time, maybe I’ll try to go out when I see it, before the damage is done.”
MORE BOOMER BLASTS
More quotes are spilling out from David Wells’ upcoming biography. Shocked?
“As of right now, I’d estimate 25 to 40 percent of all major leaguers are juiced. But that number’s fast rising.”
…”Down in the minors, where virtually every flat-broke, baloney-sandwich-eating Double-A prospect is chasing after the same, elusive, multi-million-dollar payday, the use of anabolic homer-helpers is flat-out booming,” Wells wrote. “At just about 12 bucks per shot, those steroid vials must be seen as a really solid investment.”
He writes that amphetamines are so commonplace that “stand in the middle of your clubhouse and walk 10 feet in any direction, chances are you’ll find what you need.”
“As a pitcher, I won’t ever object to a sleepy-eyed middle infielder beaning up to help me win,” Wells said. “That may not be the politically correct spin on the practice, but I really couldn’t care less.”
…”A syringe full of ‘roids can make it a whole lot easier for a major leaguer to feel confident about his game,” Wells wrote. “They’re easy to score. They’re easy to use. They really do work.”
Steroids, according to Wells, have changed the game.
“The ’78 Yankees look like a high school team when compared to today’s players,” he said.
Wells also takes swipes at teammates Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, insuring that once again, he won’t be winning the “Mr. Personality” award in the Yankee clubhouse. David Cone, who is pals with Boomer, commented on Boomer’s book in the Post this morning:
“Chances are I was probably with him,” Cone said in a manner that meant he was, indeed, with Wells. “We are both good friends of Lorne Michaels [the executive who created Saturday Night Live]. We have always supported the show together. So, yes, we were probably there.”
In explaining his pal, Cone kept using the word “throwback” to describe Wells’ penchant for late-night activities, even when they might have come before a game he pitched. But when asked how many times Wells might have pitched in such shape, Cone refused to answer, saying, “I am not going to throw him under the bus.”
…”He’s a throwback,” said Cone, who is trying to make the Mets this spring. “He’s always been a loose spirit. He could have pitched in the 1930s and ’40s with the Gashouse Gang, who were known for throwing a few back on the nights before they played. His way of doing things has worked for him.”
…Of the half-drunk revelation, [former Yankee pitcher, Mike] Stanton joked, “That surprises you? How?”
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci has an interesting look at the derth of stellar center fielders in today’s game.
“Like a lot of things, it goes in cycles, and we’re in a down cycle,” [Oakland general manager, Billy] Beane said. “It’ll come back.”
Where have all the good center fielders gone?
“They’re playing shortstop now,” Beane said.
KNOW THY ENEMY
You may have noticed that I haven’t been covering the Red Sox too tough over the past few weeks. Since spring training started, the old “Us vs. Them” mentality has taken hold. It’s not to say that there aren’t interesting things happening to Boston’s Home Nine, it’s just that the thought of the Sox is starting to make me see red.
Partisanship aside, here is a look at how ex-Yank Ramiro Mendoza is coming along.